As is well known, communication is a relationship in which messages are conveyed between two sources. If the messages flow only in one direction, no communication takes place. Feedback is a must for communication.
Today, the word “communication” has mostly technological connotations. When we hear the word communication, we think of radio, television, newspapers, phones, computers, the Internet, and the like, and this technological dimension means that information can today flow between countries, nations and individuals in an unrestrained way, crossing borders freely.
Communication provides the infrastructure for interaction, but is commonly used in a sense that covers interaction as well. Communication is certainly a prerequisite for interaction.
Access to information is a human right, but exercising this right requires having access to means of communication. Individuals or societies with limited or no access to a means of communication are unable to exercise their right to information.
To generate information, messages need to be collected, classified, examined, analyzed and interpreted. Even when the means of communication are available in a technical sense, it would be impossible to access information without a sufficient level of education to make it possible to evaluate the messages. Therefore, “the right to information” exists only on paper in the absence of the necessary infrastructure.
The globalization of communication has brought with it many new opportunities, but has also led to numerous problems.
Today, we are all bombarded with messages. The human mind goes passive when faced with excessive messages in a short period of time, and is reduced to being a mere spectator rather than an evaluator. When this happens, “active subjects” are replaced by “passive subjects”, and the end result is an inability to evaluate situations, and people who are left confused and adrift. Understanding remains shallow. Nothing is ascribed is true value, and “making sense” and “evaluating” come to be viewed as a waste of time.
Humans are communicative beings, through and through. A person deprived of the opportunity to communicate may survive in a physical sense, but would be reduced to being an unconscious creature of nature. Meaningful communication or interaction is a phenomenon that is made possible by language, and is limited by the nature and quality of a language. The use of language develops though, and the need for thought modifies and improves the language. The language of each society is the product of a long historical process, and thus reflects the life experiences of its members. In the case of communication between societies, problems of translation and making sense emerge.
In conceptual terms, languages reflect the level of civilization of a society. The culture of a society can only be penetrated through symbols, art and legends. To understand how a society makes sense of the world, we need to look at its “wisdom”, and so “art, religion, and philosophy” play very important roles in communication and interactions between societies.
Today, it is argued that wars will now take place between civilizations. Regardless of whether it is a project, a prediction or an insight, this argument calls attention to a conflict.
Those who want world peace would be making a mistake if they put all their trust in politicians. Most people think world peace could be achieved if not for politicians, but I wish it were that easy! Peace requires goodwill and constant effort; it requires cooperation, as the fire of peace needs to be fed with the wood of self-sacrifice.
Yunus Emre calls on everyone to “Come and make peace, get to know one another if we are strangers, for this world is not for anyone to own.” As seen by Yunus Emre centuries ago, peace requires “information”, showing that this is not a new problem, and goes on to say “You are not a human if all nations are not one to you”, implying that treating all societies as you would your own is a prerequisite not only for peace, but also for becoming human.
“Man is a wolf to man,” they say, but is it possible to be human if people are not friends? Is there any way other than getting to know one another if we want to be friends?
Language is a means of mutual understanding, but can also be a means of alienation. We think through language; words take the place of objects and events, and we recreate the reality in our minds. This reality, however, is a representative reality, and is not transparent, being rather fictitious. In other words, language obliterates reality and takes its place, making “alienation” inevitable. Language creates a distinction between nature and the self, thus creating consciousness, and makes associations, helping us to make sense of things. The alienation brought about by language must be dealt with through language.
Alienation leads to the creation of “the other”, and the separation and alienation brought about by language makes one’s environment (natural or social) the other. “The other” can be defined as unfamiliar and strange, but this is not a natural process – being something that is imagined and constructed in the mind through language.
People can be “the other” also to themselves, in that self-oriented subjectivism is also constructed through language.
Consciousness requires awareness, and thus making distinctions; and so every state of consciousness emerges and is constructed as a transient form of the “Self”. As a result, the “Self” becomes spiritual, being a process that cannot be consumed or known in its entirety. The source of the “Self” is this ability to think, and this is why it is spiritual.
Language is a means of communication between subjects, and is therefore the embodiment of spirit, while spirituality is the essence of humans and humans are free in spirit. The inter-subjective nature of language characterizes it as an activity. In other words, language requires a shared life. In this regard, spiritual activity is linguistic activity, and emerges in the shared life of a community. Everything is expressed in spirit, through language, and so as the essence of all things and subjects, spirit connects them to one another.
This idea is appropriately expressed in the following:
“Language turns a belle into a sweetheart,
Language turns a belle into a ruin.
Roses are roses when on the stem,
else, they turn into thorns…
Chirping makes the nightingale,
else they become sparrows…”
Making something spiritual means internalizing or adding something to the “Self”. The spirit dwells in the conscience, not in the consciousness; while conscience, in turn, is composed of internalized social relations, private relations and laws.
Just as the Self alienates through language, it can also dis-alienate by finding itself within the other, which means internalizing the other and rising to spirit. Rising to spirit means returning to the Being, or bringing oneself into being. Communities are spiritual beings, and inter-subjectivity has stages in which one discovers oneself in the form of “possession, intuition, empathy and love”. “Intuition” means returning to oneself from the other, and “love” means making the other oneself. Thus, the “knowing heart” (gönül) is the heart of the community, not just of the individual.
“The heart is a rose, and a halo,
Have your heart smile at beauty.”
The spirit is different from the soul. The spirit is the meaningful relationship one shares with nature and society, whereas the soul is the experience and perception of spirituality by the individual.
Religion can be defined as the spiritualization of certain social relations. Every religion is an institutionalized spirit. To the extent that it is liberated from religious institutions, spirituality spreads to existence and carries existence to spirit.
Spiritual power requires an inward-oriented spiritual experience to come into being, and these inward-oriented spiritual experiences modify consciousness; and following the experience, life is perceived with a whole new reality.
People who acquire spiritual power become more active in life. Spiritual power inspires, and this inspiration goes beyond the boundaries of the mind. Inspiration is a connection with a source that allows us to transcend our immediate reality. Going beyond the existing things and sensing the Being itself is only possible through inspiration.
Inspiration is best manifested in art, and the relationship that inspiration has with language and consciousness is best reflected in the art of poetry. Poetry fosters inspiration to the extent that it contains inspiration that transcends the mind.
Inspiration is a direct connection with life (without the intermediation of the mind); and when this connection is severed, alienation is the inevitable result.
Contemporary life brags about the ostracizing of spirituality. People do not talk about themselves or the others using the word “human”, opting rather to reduce humans to things, and keep talking about things. The worship of things and money is adopted as a lifestyle. Humans are reduced to their bodies, and the word love has lost all its connotations other than those relating to sex. Modernism brags about beating nature into submission, and the rationalism of modernism denounces spirituality as useless and irrational, adopting a political economy that is devoid of spirit. People are thus left in poverty and despair in the name of profit, and this is sanctified as free life. All of this exposes the problem of communication as a problem of “de-humanization”.
If we are to resolve the problem, knowing and learning are not sufficient by themselves. Knowing means having the ability to do – in other words, we only know what we are actually capable of doing. In addition to knowledge, we also need understanding, which equates to enlightenment. Knowledge is about reality, and understanding is about truth; truth transcends the knowledge of reality, in that truth means understanding and accepting the knowledge of reality. For example, we all know that we are mortal, but understanding mortality is altogether different.
What does it mean for people to know one another? Knowing oneself is itself a problem, let alone knowing others. Knowing oneself necessitates having ideas about oneself, while understanding oneself means experiencing and living oneself. For people to know one another, they must be able to interpret and assign meaning, as no one can experience another’s being through consciousness.
It is vital that we discover another’s being. If our discovery leads to love, then an essential sharing takes place, which is the essential relationship (sharing) of the one and only Being among all that exist.
* First published in Us Düşün ve Ötesi (Reason, Thought, and Beyond), no.7, 2002. Translated by Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz, and revised by the editorial board.